4,000 people receive emergency payments after NZ quake

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Four thousand people affected by Tuesday's devastating earthquake in the New Zealand South Island city of Christchurch have received emergency payments, New Zealand Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said on Friday.

Around 700,000 NZ dollars (525,000 U.S. dollars) have been paid out in Civil Defence payments for essential items such as food, clothing and bedding, Radio New Zealand reported.

The grants -- available in the form of vouchers and direct payments to bank accounts -- are not income tested.

The Civil Defence payments can also be made at the five Work and Income sites open at Ashburton, Hornby, Rangiora, Kaiapoi and Riccarton.

The average payment is about 170 NZ dollars (127.5 U.S. dollars) , but varies according to need.

Four welfare centers for Christchurch earthquake evacuees in Rolleston Community Cent, Burnside High School, Pioneer Stadium and Rangiora Baptist Church are open.

The Cowles Stadium welfare center has closed for health reasons.

The center was forced to close on Friday afternoon because water and sewage services at the site were considered unsafe.

"New Zealanders are a tough bunch, but this isn't the time to be staunch. Plenty of help is available, so if you need a hand please don't hesitate to ask," Bennett said.

All Canterbury residents who need assistance are encouraged to contact a welfare center of call the Government Help Line.

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